It took me at least three years until I realized that success in PRI programs and interventions will ultimately come down to whether you can restore frontal plane movement, and keep it, while performing any type of task, be it athletics, work, or simply breathing.
I think the time it took me to figure this out is due to how we learn PRI, or how we learn about the human body in general.
We learn it by examining the parts e.g., the pelvis, the ribcage, the neck.
While it has to be taught this way, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture: that the body is one functioning organism that is completely indivisible. A restriction in the hard palate of your mouth can be felt in your big toe (I am an example of this).
As a trainer, you learn that the frontal plane exists.
But you also realize that the frontal plane is boring.
Sure there are some exercises that you may or may not realize are frontal plane based, like side lunges and side planks, but in our minds the most exciting aspects of training always occur in the sagittal plane.
Squatting, deadlifting, benching. We live in a sagittal minded world. This is only natural because the majority of our movement is forward. We fail to notice that this forward and back (non-compensatory) sagittal movement is dependent on proper frontal and transverse plane activity, and that if we are stuck in extension on one or both sides of the body (Left AIC and PEC respectively), these two planes of movement will be restricted.
Ironically, we need to use the sagittal plane for initial pelvic repositioning via:
- inhibition of overactive hip flexors and back extensors to allow pelvis and ribs to reposition
- activation of left hamstring and internal obliques to move pelvis and ribs into a new position.
What about the transverse?
Transverse plane is necessary, too, but transverse isn’t so hard to get once you get frontal. In fact transverse is usually restored at the same time as frontal, although transverse movement will still need to be trained.
Remember that repositioning allows the potential for movement. Repositioning doesn’t necessarily mean that the body will know how to use its potential for movement for actual movement.
This is why repositioning isn’t enough, even though clients may feel a lot better just through pelvic and ribcage repositioning.
You need to retrain and bring awareness to lost movement patterns. Patterns most people never knew they had and thus never knew they lost.
Truthfully, no one cares about how their ribs or cranium move. We just move. No consideration is really needed.
But when we lose movement, we may start to ache, and to resolve the ache we need to start moving again. And all those little movements, how an acetabulum moves on a femur, or how a ribcage moves underneath a scapula, are unbelievably important. Those little movements set the table for the big movements that we all know so well.
Frontal plane restoration is what enables all that.
The Frontal Plane and The Pelvis
Frontal plane is often involved in warmup activities when we try to train athletic abilities like changing direction, but I doubt we ever give too much thought to the frontal planes importance. We just assume it’s there.
But it’s not. Well, it is there, but not true frontal plane motion. We may be moving side-to-side, but we are probably using compensatory movement patterns that mimic frontal plane activity.
As you quickly learn in Myokinematic Restoration, if you can’t adduct your left leg due to an anteriorly rotated left hemi-pelvis, can your lateral quickness training really be training the frontal plane muscles correctly?
On the other hand, is it even desirable to train frontal plane movements without compensation?
Athletes compensation patterns seem to serve them rather well. Do you really want to take an athlete out of their compensation patterns that they rely on for their athletic endeavors.
That’s a whole other topic, but it is important to recognize that restoring “true” frontal plane movement is not always so cut and dry.
In this post, I just want to focus on frontal plane as it relates to PRI.
The first place that frontal plane restoration is needed is in the left hemi-pelvis. Specifically, we need adduction of the left pelvis. In Pelvic Restoration terms, we need adduction of the left pelvic inlet.
This left pelvic inlet needs to adduct so that the left leg can adduct.
If the left hemi-pelvis is rotated anteriorly, which is the Left AIC pattern, left pelvic inlet adduction will be unable to occur fully (these femoral/pelvic inlet/outlet relationships is why the Pelvic Restoration course can be mightily confusing at first).
To give the left pelvic inlet the opportunity to adduct, we first have to get the left pelvis out of flexion via a repositioning exercise such as the 90-90 with hip shift.
Successful repositioning of the left pelvis will put it in a position to allow full left pelvic inlet adduction and adduction of the femur by using the actual adducters (instead of hip flexors).
Sometimes left inlet/leg adduction, and Left AF/IR, will be limited after repositioning due to a tight posterior hip capsule and/or the femur not being fully approximated in the acetabulum. In other words, the left femur is not sitting snug in the joint, so adduction is limited.
The Left ZOA
Next we need to restore the frontal plane position of your torso.
More precisely, we need to get the ribs on the left to internally rotate so that we can get left thoracic adduction, which can be visualized as left side-bending of your torso.
Internal rotation of the ribs is necessary for frontal plane position on the left.
So to get frontal plane motion on the left, which in PRI is usually referred to as left thoracic adduction, we need to restore internal rotation of the ribs on the left. And this is done through breathing.
By concentrating on elongating our exhalation, and blowing all our air “out”, we will activate our left external obliques to internally rotate our ribs on the left side.
Since nothing in the human body happens in complete isolation, this rib internal rotation via internal oblique activation will also help pull the left pelvis back, since the obliques attach to the ASIS. If you combine elongated exhalations with recruiting a left hamstring via a 90/90 exercise, you can restore frontal plane of the pelvis and torso at the same time.
This is why PRI exercises are so darn powerful.
The position in which you perform them enables you to address multiple areas of the body at once. Not only does a 90/90 pelvic repositioning exercise have the ability to reposition the left pelvis and restore the ability to adduct it in the frontal plane, it can also restore frontal plane position of the left ribcage at the same time due to the integration of the left internal obliques.
Now you have your Left ZOA off of one exercise!
Taking it further, you can potentially restore frontal plane movement of the neck as well.
In the Right Tempo-Mandibular Cervical Chain pattern, there is limited ability to laterally flex the neck to the right, often due to an overactive right sternocleidomastoid, or SCM, that has become overactive due to the position of our torso being stuck in left trunk rotation as a compensation for that left pelvis that is stuck forwardly rotated and oriented to the right.
If you restore a left ZOA, via the left obliques, it means that you have achieved left rib internal rotation and left thoracic abduction, and will permit proper thoracic rotation to the right as the left ZOA serves as an “anchor”, so that you don’t lose proper position of the left ribs as your rotate to the right.
This allows the right SCM to relax since the torso no longer has to remain in left rotation to orient us straight ahead, the right SCM no longer has to work to help you rotate your torso to the right. A relaxed SMC now allows your neck to rest in a position that permits it to laterally flex to the right as fully as it does to the left.
Seeing the Big Picture
PRI teaches courses split up by region of the body.
The pelvis has Pelvic Restoration, that focuses on the minutae of the pelvic inlet and outlet, and Myokinematic Restoration that focuses more on the relationship of the pelvis to the femur and lower spine.
The torso has Postural Respiration that focuses on ribcage position, movement, and breathing.
The neck has Cervical Revolution, by far the most complicated, the focuses on the neck, jaw, and cranial movements.
This setup reflects how the human mind makes sense of things. First we see something, like a human body. Then we begin to break it down into its separate parts and label everything.
Unfortunately, many people stop at that step. They never step back from the labels and understand that the human body, nor anything else, is just a collection of different parts and systems. These parts and systems are all part of a unified whole and thus influence each other.
PRI can be a huge paradigm shift in this regard. How many of us actually ever stop to consider how a pelvis moves on a femur? We know that it does, we just never look at it any further. I had never considered the movement of a ribcage underneath a scapula. I had never considered how breathing happens, or how one elongated exhalation can influence how an entire body moves.
The local view, consisting of separate body parts and systems, is necessary for the human mind to make sense of things. Yet the inability to then take a global view and see that this sense of separateness is all an illusion, that the body exists and moves as a unified whole, is essential to finally understanding not only the frontal plane, but all of PRI itself.